wMay 10, 2008

Manga v. Comics

When I posted about writing my Global Cultures paper, I mentioned its topic: representations of gender in Japanese manga versus U.S. comics. I did say that the beginning contained an explanation of the differences between the two, and Keely said, "Post it!" This is that post.

I should note that this is not an English class, and we received next to zero instructions on how to write this paper, or give the presentation on which it was based (Please excuse the poor writing). I was at a particular disadvantage because everyone in my class presented on their Study Abroad trips, and I have never studied abroad (it is not required to receive a Global Cultures certificate!).

Anyway, this is a slightly modified version of the introduction, and the transition in the middle.

Argh, I forgot that I edited this on the computer at work, and never saved the new version to my home computer, :/ I'll do my best to make it sound like the other one!

Unfortunately, I have not studied abroad, and have only left the country to cross the border into Canada to buy my high school Prom dress. Yet, with the world becoming increasingly globalized, I still have multicultural experiences every day. I have been an avid reader since a young age, and am constantly trying new authors and classics. I do like reading well-written science fiction, but I am willing to try any genre. After trying a few graphic novels from the public library in high school, a new medium of texts became visible to me. As time has gone on, I discovered manga from Japan, manwha from Korea, and comic books that are published in the United States. I now find myself the president of the UW campus Anime Club, which meets weekly.

"Manga" usually refers to any comic made in Japan. It is the Japanese word for comic, and is used by English-speaking readers to differentiate it from other graphic novels, such as American comic books. While American comic books are generally printed in color and on larger pages, manga is almost always printed in black and white, and shrunk to a smaller size when bundled into volumes. Manga also tends to have more stylized art, while artists for American comics strive to make their characters as realistic as possible. Another interesting difference is that a Japanese manga artist is almost always in charge of both the writing of the series and the drawing of its art. In the American comic book market, however, it is almost always the case that a comic series has one or a few writers, and separate people who are artists. Long-running series will see writers and writing teams come and go as the story continues for decades.

In the United States, the quickest way for a person to read a new issue of a comic book series is to purchase a single, stand-alone issue. In Japan, the quickest way to be updated on a current manga series is by buying a weekly (or monthly, as the case may be) catalogue that runs between 5 and 10 series at the same time. Generally, catalogues try to run series that have something in common, such as their target audience or genre. American comic books seem to have a longer history than Japanese manga. American comic books have about a 70-year history, while mainstream manga is only about 30-40 years old. As time has progressed, both markets have periodically borrowed from one another.

One of the major differences between comics and manga is target audience. American comics have sometimes tried to market series toward girls. In the 1950s, publishing company DC tried, but did not have much luck, probably due to overly melodramatic plot lines in series with names like "Heart Throbs," "Young Romance," and "Girls' Romance." The cover of one such comic has a glaring woman, saying, "Don’t mind me, Barry! I’m only the girl you’re engaged to!" to a surprised man embracing a woman with pointed, round breasts (YES, THEY WERE BOTH!) and a very short skirt. There is another with a black-haired woman saying, "If you don’t go along with my little scheme, I’ll spill the beans about your SECRET MARRIAGE!" The woman to whom she is speaking has tears falling from her eyes, and looks forlorn. Aside from these failed attempts, there really no longer are series marketed solely towards men or women; the stories simply stand as different genres, and the reader can decide what sounds appealing.

Conversely, Japanese manga series are labeled according to their target audience, and the Japanese names for these groups are used by American readers. "Shounen" is the Japanese word for "boy," and it refers to manga targeted toward boys. In general, these series focus on a male protagonist who engages in a series of fights. Throughout the series, he will get stronger as he fights pretty much every person he ever encounters. Some popular examples include the series Bleach, Naruto, and Fullmetal Alchemist. "Shoujo" is the Japanese word for "girl," and it refers to manga targeted toward girls. In general, these series focus on a female protagonist and her relationships with others. These relationships are not only romantic intrigues, but also often focus on family and friendship. Of course, no single series will fit neatly into a box, but these are general categories. In general, I read shoujo manga, although I enjoy action and suspense manga, as well.

I also had a paragraph somewhere in here about how manga and American comics approach realism. In the American series X-Men, for example, great pains are taken to explain that super heroes have super powers because of genetic mutations. A lot of time is spent building a school for "mutants" to attend, fleshing out the government's reaction to the existence of such mutants, etc. In manga, characters will have features such as cat ears for no apparent reason, and everyone else seems to think that it's normal. In manga, you get very comfortable very quickly with the concept of "just go with it."

If you have question, ask them! Maybe I can answer them, or could find the answer for you. I actually read a lot more manga than I do American comics, :O

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scribbled mystickeeper at 9:46 AM

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